Council emails reveal political pressure for South Lakes cinema redevelopment

Internal emails revealing how the leaders of South Lakeland District Council blocked appeals by local authority officers and the National Park Authority to remove a redevelopment threat hanging over a Bowness cinema have been released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The emails show that In response to appeals from the Lake District National Park Authority to withdraw the Royalty Cinema from a list of sites for future development, a South Lakeland District Council officer explained that further discussions had taken place “with our politicians” and that to “withdraw now could be seen as a U-turn on the stated rationale for putting the site forward. There will be scope for future consultation in due course”.

The correspondence also shows how the South Lakes council has fought to keep the council-owned cinema in line for future development. In one email reply to National Park Planners, the council revealed that it was not happy being associated with a statement “which says it is important to retain the cinema. There is no decision to change the current use but we need to keep our options open”.

The revelations represent fresh evidence of the political pressure exerted on officials by the council’s leadership to keep the cinema on the National Park’s planning blueprint for future redevelopment.

In July the council rejected a petition presented by Windermere campaigner Jane Hoyle, local councillor Ben Berry, the cinema’s manager Charles Morris, and Mark Latimer of the Furness Theatre Organ Project which called on the local authority to withdraw the historic cinema from the National Park’s development plan.

Windermere councillor Ben Berry said: “The cat’s out of the bag. These internal emails show that the public assurances provided by South Lakeland’s Liberal Democrat Council leaders were not worth the paper they were written on.

“The dissembling, misinformation and obfuscation which the council’s cabinet has been engaged in is deeply troubling and shows contempt for local residents and campaigners who believe the Royalty is too important to be left to the whim of local developers.”

Local Windermere campaigner Jane Hoyle said: “The council should now do the right thing and withdraw the site from the National Park’s Local Plan before it is approved next year.”